Second Thoughts Game #135: Tigers 12, Indians 1
Run of Great Pitching Runs Out
The Indians will need to write this one off.
The Indians have gone to the bullpen early over the last month very few times. This time it was Corey Kluber who failed to get through the third inning, as unbelievable as that is to say. The bullpen didn’t fare much better, with the Tigers tacking on runs against Zach McAllister (who actually pitched well overall), Brian Price, and Austin Adams. This game was about as ugly as they get. The team was coming off an outstanding series against the Royals, possibly the hottest team in the Majors in the month of August, so this game certainly came out of nowhere.
There’s no time for the team to dwell on it. The Indians have gained a ton of momentum over the past week, gaining ground in both the Division and Wild Card races. They have a game against the Royals that should be a win sitting on ice until late September. If they can come back and at least split this series against Detroit they’ll still be in good position to continue their playoff push deep into September. The good news on that front is that in the next three games the Indians will have Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer pitching, the trio that has carried the Indians over the past three weeks.
Those pitchers will need to control the middle of the Tigers lineup, which combined to go 8-12 with four home runs and six RBI’s on Monday. For all their perceived might, the Tigers lineup isn’t very dangerous outside ofMiguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The Indians have struggled to contain J.D Martinez, but he’s really struggled since the All-Star Break. Cabrera and Martinez have torched the Indians this year, and at some point you have to let those two stop beating you. That’s a tough pill to swallow since they bat back-to-back, but if the Indians can control those two they can avoid more games like this in the future.
RF/DH Positions in September
If you didn’t see the game, you didn’t see Mike Aviles make two defensive miscues in the early innings that ended up costing the Indians runs. You’re not going to see them listed as errors, but they’re mistakes nonetheless. Aviles was removed in the fourth inning with an illness, though I’m not sure if he was ill coming into the game or if it was the cause of the play in the first inning where he slammed his head on the ground trying to make a diving catch.
I found it somewhat puzzling that Aviles received the start in right over Tyler Holt or even Zach Walters. First off, Aviles has only been an outfielder in special circumstances for most of the season. In the last couple of weeks he’s received more playing time in right field than at any point of his career. Secondly, defensive metrics peg him as terrible defensively no matter where he’s playing in the outfield. That hasn’t stopped Francona from playing him there.
Jesus Aguilar, fresh from Columbus, started at DH and gave Walters the night off from his regular duties there. I certainly have no problem with Aguilar being in the lineup, especially against a lefty. Walters has been playing regularly, and struggling of late, so a day off isn’t a surprise either. My problem is the Indians overuse of Aviles. While he’s one of the Indians few true right-handed bats, his OPS against lefties is only .650 this season. Francona needs to stop forcing Aviles into the lineup. Lonnie Chisenhall might be the hottest bat on the team, and Aguilar deserves at-bats. Aviles should have been given the day off.
This same situation is going to play out a couple more times before the end of the season. The Indians have several options at DH and RF now. With Aguilar on board and deserving of playing time, that should mean more time in the outfield for Walters to continue getting him at-bats. When David Murphy comes back, he and Walters should receive the bulk of the time in right field, with Walters also getting at-bats at DH. In almost no circumstance should Dickerson or Aviles see any further playing time in the outfield, barring injury.
- I suggested in an article last week that Brian Price and/or Austin Adams may have a chance to earn meaningful middle relief work in September. After their performances in this game, it’s going to take a lot for Terry Franconato trust them and I don’t blame him for that. They certainly didn’t make a good first impression. I do like both of their arms, especially Adams, so hopefully they’ll get some more work at some point. It’ll be good for them in the long run. I imagine that’ll have to be in mop up duty though.
- I mentioned earlier about Lonnie Chisenhall being the hottest hitter on the team. He’s hit in the last eight games, and his pinch hit double on Sunday was one of the biggest hits of the season. Even against a great left-hander like David Price, Chisenhall was one of the lone bright spots in the Indians lineup. This is a great sign for the last month of the season. As has been mentioned many times, Chisenhall’s a difference maker when he’s at his best offensively. Francona needs to keep riding his hot streak, no matter which arm the opposing pitcher is using.
- The second of four games against the Tigers will feature Carlos Carrasco against Kyle Lobstein. This will be Lobstein’s second start of the season after posting a 4.07 ERA in Triple A Toledo. For the Indians, Carrasco has given up just two runs in his first four starts since returning to the rotation.
The Indians are 14-10 in home games with 20k+ in attendance this year. But hey... don't let facts get in the way of a good (read: whiny ass) story